O'Malley, A. M., Roberts, R., Stair, K. S., & Blackburn, J. J. (2019). The Forms of Dissonance Experienced by U.S. University Agriculture Students During a Study Abroad to Nicaragua. Journal of Agricultural Education, 60(3), 191-205. doi: 10.5032/jae.2019.03191

In spring 2018, nine agriculture students from Louisiana State University traveled to Nicaragua for a study abroad course. During this experience, students explored agricultural industries and engaged in cultural tours as well as in a service-learning project. Evidence has demonstrated that such experiences can transform students’ intercultural sensitivity, global knowledge, and views on agriculture. To facilitate such an experience, however, requires educators to design experiences that challenge
students’ existing values and worldviews – a concept known as dissonance. Mezirow theorized that when individuals reflect critically on dissonance, it spurs a transformational learning (TL) process. However, knowledge of the types of dissonance that initiate TL in study abroad programs is insufficient. This study, therefore, sought to understand the multiple ways that students experienced dissonance during a study abroad course. Through our analysis, four forms of dissonance emerged: (1)
environmental, (2) sociocultural, (3) intellectual, and (4) personal. When viewed through the lens of TL theory, the forms of dissonance appeared to shape and influence how students experienced TL as well as their resulting perspective changes. As a consequence, this study provided important insights into how study abroad courses could be designed and delivered to better encourage the maturation of students’ perspectives on global issues and problems.

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